Архив метки: Kevin Systrom

Instagram founders say losing autonomy at Facebook meant “winning”

Rather than be sore about losing independence within Facebook, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom told me it was an inevitable sign of his app’s triumph. Today at South By South West, Systrom and fellow co-founder Mike Krieger sat down for their first on-stage talk together since leaving Facebook in September. They discussed their super hero origin stories, authenticity on social media, looming regulation for big tech, and how they’re exploring what they’ll do next.
Krieger grew up hitting “view source” on websites while Systrom hacked on AOL booter programs that would kick people off instant messenger, teaching both how code could impact real people. As Instagram grew popular, Krieger described the “incredi-bad” feeling of fighting server fires and trying to keep the widely loved app online even if that meant programming in the middle of a sushi restaurant or camping retreat. He once even revived Instagram while drunk in the middle of the night, and woke up with no memory of the feat, confused about who’d fixed the problem. The former Instagram CTO implored founders not to fall into the “recruiting death spiral” where you’re too busy to recruit which makes you busier which makes you too busy to recruit…
But thankfully, the founders were also willing to dig into some tougher topics than their scrappy startup days.
Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger (from left) drive to Palo Alto to raise their Series A, circa January 2011
Independence vs Importance.
“In some ways, there being less autonomy is a function of Instagram winning. If Instagram had just been this niche photo app for photographers, we probably would be working on that app for 20 year. Instead what happened was it got better and better and better, and it improved, and it got to a size where it was meaningfully important to this company” Systrom explained. “If this thing gets to that scale that we want it to get to which is why we’re doing this deal, the autonomy will eventually not be there as much because it’s so important. So in some ways it’s just an unavoidable thing if you’re successful. So you can choose, do you want to be unsuccessful and small and have all the autonomy in the world, or no?”
AUSTIN, TX – MARCH 11: Mike Krieger speaks onstage at Interactive Keynote: Instagram Founders Kevin Systrom & Mike Krieger with Josh Constine during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Austin Convention Center on March 11, 2019 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Saucedo/Getty Images for SXSW)
Krieger followed up that “I think if you study . . . all the current companies, the ones that succeed internally eventually have become so important to the acquiring company that it’s almost irresponsible to not be thinking about what are the right models for integration. The advice I generally give is, ‘are you okay with that if you succeed?’ And if you’re not then you shouldn’t do the deal.” If the loss of autonomy can’t be avoided, they suggest selling to a rocket ship that will invest in and care for your baby rather than shift priorities.
Asked if seeing his net worth ever feels surreal, Systrom said  money doesn’t make you happy and “I don’t really wake up in the morning and look at my bank account.” I noted that’s the convenient privilege of having a big one.
The pair threw cold water on the idea that being forced to earn more money drove them out of the company. “I remember having this series of conversations with Mark and other folks at Facebook and they’re like ‘You guys just joined, do not worry about monetization, we’ll figure this out down the road.’ And it actually came a lot more from us saying “1. It’s important for us to be contributing to the overall Fb Inc . . . and 2. Each person who joins before you have ads is a person you’re going to have to introduce ads to.” Systrom added that “to be clear, we were the ones pushing monetization, not the other way around, because we believed Instagram has to make money somehow. It costs a lot to run . . . We pushed hard on it so that we would be a successful unit within Facebook and I think we got to that point, which is really good.”
But from 2015 to 2016, Instagram’s remaining independence fueled a reinvention of its app with non-square photos, the shift to the algorithm, and the launch of Stories. On having to challenge the fundamental assumptions of a business, “You’ve got maybe a couple years of relevance when you build a product. If you don’t reinvent it every quarter or every year, then you fall out of relevance and you go away.”
That last launch was inspired by wanting to offer prismatic identity where people could share non-highlights that wouldn’t haunt them. But also, Systrom admits that “Honestly a big reason why was that for a long time, people’s profiles were filled with Snapchat links and it was clear that people were trying to bridge the two products. So by bringing the two products [Feed and Stories] into one place, we gave consumers what they wanted.” Though when I asked anyone in the crowd who was still mad about the algorithm to hiss, SXSW turned into a snake pit.
Regulating Big Tech

With Systrom and Krieger gone, Facebook is moving forward with plans to more tightly integrate Instagram with Facebook and WhatsApp. That includes unifying their messaging system, which some say is designed to make Facebook’s apps harder to break up with anti-trust regulation. What does Systrom think of the integration? “The more people that are available to talk with, the more useful the platform becomes. And I buy that thesis . . . Whether or not they will in fact want to talk to people on different platforms, I can’t tell the future, so I don’t know” Systrom said.
AUSTIN, TX – MARCH 11: Josh Constine, Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom speak onstage at Interactive Keynote: Instagram Founders Kevin Systrom & Mike Krieger with Josh Constine during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Austin Convention Center on March 11, 2019 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Saucedo/Getty Images for SXSW)
Krieger recommended Facebook try to prove users want that cross-app messaging before embarking on a giant engineering challenge of merging their backends. When I asked if Systrom ever had a burning desire to Instagram Direct message a WhatsApp user, he admitted “Personally, no.” But in a show of respect and solid media training, he told his former employer “Bravo for making a big bet and going for it.”
Then it was time for the hardest hitting question: their thoughts on Presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to regulate big tech and roll back Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram. “Do we get our job back?” Systrom joked, trying to diffuse the tension. Krieger urged more consideration of downstream externalities, and specificity on what problem a break up fixes. He wants differentiation between regulating Facebook’s acquisitions, Amazon white-labeling and selling products, and Apple’s right to run the only iOS App Store.
Acquisition vs Competition
“We live in a time where I think the anger against big tech has increased ten-fold — whether that’s because the property prices in your neighborhood have gone up, whether it’s because you don’t like Russian meddling in elections — there are a long list of reasons people are angry at tech right now and some of them I think are well-founded” Systrom confirmed. “That doesn’t mean that the answer is to break all the companies up. Breaking companies up is a very specific prescription for a very specific problem. If you want to fix economic issues there are ways of doing that. If you want to fix Russian meddling there are ways of doing that. Breaking up a company doesn’t fix those problems. That doesn’t mean that companies shouldn’t be broken up if they get too big and they’re monopolies and they cause problems, but being big in and of itself is not a crime.”
attends Interactive Keynote: Instagram Founders Kevin Systrom & Mike Krieger with Josh Constine during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Austin Convention Center on March 11, 2019 in Austin, Texas
Systrom then took a jab at Warren’s tech literacy, saying “part of what’s surprised me is that generally the policy is all tech should be broken up, and that feels to me again not nuanced enough and it shows me that the understanding of the problem isn’t there. I think it’s going to take a more nuanced proposal, but my fear is that something like a proposal to break up all tech is playing on everyone’s current feeling of anti-tech rather than doing what I think politicians should do which is address real problems and give real solutions.”
The two founders then gave some pretty spurious logic for why Instagram’s acquisition helped consumers. “As someone who ran the company for how many years inside of Facebook? Six? There was a lot of competition internally even and I think better ideas came out because of it. We grew both companies not just one company. It’s really hard question. What consumer was damaged because it grew to the size that it did? I think that’s a strong argument that in fact the acquisition worked out for consumers.” That ignores the fact that if Instagram and Facebook were rivals, they’d have to compete on privacy and treating their users well. Even if they inspired each other to build more engaging products, that doesn’t address where harm to consumers has been done.
Krieger suggested that the acquisition actually spurred competition by making Instagram a role modeI. “There was a gold rush of companies being like ‘I’m going to be the Instagram of X . . . the Instagram of Audio, the Instagram of video, the Instagram of dog photos.’ You saw people start new companies and try to build them out in order to try to achieve what we’ve gotten to.” Yet no startup besides Snapchat, which had already launched, has actually grown to rival Instagram. And seeing Instagram hold its own against the Facebook empire would have likely inspired many more startups — some of which can’t find funding since investors doubt their odds against a combined Facebook and Instagram
As for what’s next for the college buddies, “we’re giving ourselves the time to get curious about things again” Krieger says. They’re still exploring so there was no big reveal about their follow-up venture. But Systrom says they built Instagram by finding the mega-trend of cameras on phones and asking what they’d want to use, “and the question is, what’s the next wave?”

Instagram founders say losing autonomy at Facebook meant “winning”

Andreessen Horowitz Made $78M Off $250,000 Investment in Instagram

instagram logo

Andreessen Horowitz revealed that it made $78 million off its $250,000 seed investment in Instagram’s billion-dollar acquisition in a post that was meant to quell criticism that it “fumbled” its involvement with the company.

“Ordinarily, when someone criticizes me for only making 312 times my money, I let the logic of their statement speak for itself,” wrote general partner Ben Horowitz. “However, in this case, the narrative that some critics put forth has the nasty side effect of casting two outstanding entrepreneurs—Kevin and Dalton Caldwell—in an unfair light and glosses over an important ethical issue that we faced.”

While Andreessen Horowitz was one of Instagram’s very earlier investors, it said it didn’t follow-on because of a conflict of interest with another company it funded. The firm had supported Picplz, another photo-sharing concept that didn’t end up having as much momentum as Instagram. The company behind it eventually changed changed course and turned into App.net, which gives other mobile developers landing pages and other tools for acquiring users.

Dalton Caldwell, who was chief executive of the company behind Picplz, was already working on photo concepts in April 2010, a month after Kevin Systrom raised $500,000 in funding for Burbn, a location-sharing concept that would eventually morph into InstagramInstagram launched in early October 2010 and Caldwell’s company said it had closed funding in early NovemberInstagram later went on to take funding in a round led by a rival top-tier firm, Benchmark Capital.

Last week, The New York Times ran a story saying that Andreessen Horowitz had basically screwed up its investment in the company. The decision to fund Picplz “was a calculated bet against Instagram and it left Mr. Systrom livid,” the Times reported.

But Horowitz is framing the choice as an ethical issue:

After speaking with both entrepreneurs and much internal discussion, we concluded that funding Kevin to compete with Dalton would be a violation of the original implicit commitment we made to Dalton—to not fund competitors to PicPlz. On the other hand, funding Dalton did not violate our implicit agreement with Kevin because he changed his business—we’d funded Burbn not Instagram.

So our choices were: a) invest in Dalton b) invest in neither or c) invest in Kevin and violate our commitment to Dalton. As soon as we fully recognized those were the choices, we ruled out option c and elected option a.

However, we still had a problem: because we had invested in Kevin’s seed round, we had both information rights and pro rata rights to the series B. These are important and valuable rights, but it seemed completely unethical to us to exercise them since we funded a competitor. As a result, we unilaterally and without compensation or consideration gave Kevin back those rights and did not invest further in Instagram.

And note to future founders: Horowitz emphasized that what Instagram did in selling to Facebook for $1 billion is exceedingly rare. For every company like that, there are literally thousands of failures.

He added, “News to world: it generally takes longer than two years to create a billion dollars in value. What Kevin and team did was special and unique.”

This story is developing….

Andreessen Horowitz Made $78M Off $250,000 Investment in Instagram

Instagram Unveils A Sign-Up Page For Android Users, Still No Launch Date

instagram android

Instagram has been iPhone-only for so long, and its executives have been so coy about their plans for other platforms, that it can be hard to believe the company will ever release an app for Android. And no, it still hasn’t announced a launch date, but if you’re an Android owner who wants the app, you should go to this page and sign up right now.

Earlier this month, when TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis interviewed co-founder Kevin Systrom at South by Southwest, he teased the audience by waving around the Android app on-stage. Apparently it wasn’t ready for a real demo, but he claimed that “in some ways, it’s better than our iOS app.”

During the Q&A, Systrom also said the app already has more than 27 million registered users. In other words, Instagram is growing at a crazy clip on the iPhone alone, thank you very much.

The new Android sign-up page has literally zero information to add. It just asks, “Want to be first in line for Instagram on Android?” and lets users enter their email address. Still, it’s a sign that the company wants to start building up the Android excitement. And if you sign-up, you’ll probably hear about the app before I do.

[via TheNextWeb]

Instagram Unveils A Sign-Up Page For Android Users, Still No Launch Date

Kevin Systrom Drops A Few Hints About Instagram’s Business Model

instagram logo

When Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom spoke today at Federated Media’s Signal conference, there wasn’t much in the way of new info — but the fact that Systrom was at the conference, and the angle he took, suggests that the company is starting to think a little more seriously about its business model.

Systrom began his talk by reviewing some of the user numbers that Instagram has already shared — it has more than 27 million users. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that if someone opens Instagram, they’re likely to open it eight more times that day. That reach and that engagement should already be pretty appealing to advertisers, especially when paired with Instagram’s focus.

“Our atomic unit of communication on Instagram is an image,” Systrom says. “Advertisers all around the world speak in images.”

For that reason, Systrom says that Instagram may be “the next big opportunity in display advertising.” And even though the app doesn’t have an ad program yet, he highlighted three ways that brands are already using it. First, they can promote products. Burberry, for example, uses Instagram to share photos from its fashion show and to repost its ads, usually with a filter.

“What’s really cool about this is, it doesn’t feel like advertising,” Systrom said. “When you open Instagram, it feels like entertainment.”

Second, events can use Instagram as live coverage and publicity, as both the Grammys and Sundance have done. Third, brands can organize Instagram-specific campaigns. Tiffany asked users to share love-themed photos, which it then pulled onto its own website using the Instagram API. Warby Parker took an “instawalk” with its fans, and throughout the walk, people were posting photos with Warby Parker glasses.

As Systrom was walking off the stage, event host John Battelle pointed out that even though those examples sound great, Instagram isn’t making any money from them. Systrom said this is “the prototypical example of every new social network.” He declined to say when Instagram might rolling out a paid ad model, but he said the big theme will be “experimentation” to see which premium services advertisers are willing to pay for. The features might, for example, involve improved distribution (perhaps a promoted photo or campaign) or something that makes a photo more “actionable”.

Kevin Systrom Drops A Few Hints About Instagram’s Business Model

With Version 2.0, Instagram Focuses On Re-engineering The Camera


It was exactly one year ago today that I wrote up my initial lengthy preview of Instagram. I had a feeling that when it launched, it was going to be big. I underestimated it.

Fast forward to today. Instagram is just about to hit 10 million users. They are the nimble upstart that has become the gold standard in the mobile social photo space . Everyone is gunning for them. And so it’s fitting that today, a year after my initial post, they’re unveiling version 2.0 of their app.

First, it’s important to note what Instagram 2.0 is not: a completely new app. If the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies to anyone, it applies to Instagram. At its core, what they’ve built is clearly working, so there’s no reason to change that. But the Instagram team realized there was a way to dramatically improve the service while retaining the elements users love. So they set out to completely re-engineer the camera.

The aspect of the app where the magic really happens has been completely re-done. When you first load the camera up, you’ll notice that it looks different. The limited settings buttons at the bottom have been replaced by more robust controls along the top of the camera screen. There you’ll find the flash toggle, the ability to flip to the front camera, and the ability to close the camera. But you’ll also find the new tools: border toggle, and a new water drop icon (more on that in a second).

Along the bottom of the camera portion of the app, on either side of the shutter, you’ll find the button to load images from your camera roll and a new eye icon. Clicking on this icon alters the Instagram camera to make it so that you can see camera filters in realtime. Yes, you now see what a picture will look with a filter before you take it.

How? Instagram has completely re-written the filters to make them as fast as possible. It used to be that you would have to wait a few seconds for a filter to be applied to a photo, even on the quick iPhone 4. Now it’s nearly instantaneous in Instagram 2.0. And this allows them to do live filtering as well. The filters now perform over 200 times faster, co-founder Kevin Systrom says.

Other apps, notably Path, have done live filters before. But the performance has left something to be desired. And more recently, Path removed the ability and now focuses on filtering after a picture is taken.

To be clear, with Instagram 2.0, you can still filter after a picture is taken as well. If you don’t click on the eye icon, you won’t see the filtering option until after you’ve taken the picture — just like the old days. But what’s really cool is that even if you filter an image before you take the picture, you can change your mind after you take it, and switch the filter.

Speaking of filters, yes, there are more of them. Instagram has added four news ones with the 2.0 release: Amaro, Rise, Hudson, and Valencia. Instagram has teamed up with one popular Instagram user to make these and even more down the line.

Going back to the water drop icon, this allows you to also tilt-shift in realtime as well. Or you can do it after the picture is taken. This tool has also been re-written to be 100 times faster than before, and it’s now more visually obvious what the focal point is.

Once you take a picture, there is also a new option to rotate it, 90 degrees at a time. And again, there’s also now a border toggle to turn off borders for any filter that has them by default.

That’s about giving users more control, and along those lines, Instagram is giving users another element many have requested: high-resolution photos. Previously, Instagram would save all photos as 612×612 — now they’re 1936×1936, taking full advantage of the iPhone 4′s camera. But it’s important to note that these high resolutions images are only saved to your camera roll. The images uploaded to Instagram’s servers are still the smaller variety. Instagram says they’re doing this in order to ensure fast upload speeds are maintained and because iOS 5 with Photo Stream will allow people to share higher resolution images that way.

With these changes to the camera, Instagram is simply extending upon its lead in the social mobile photo space. The picture-taking process is now much faster and more powerful and that’s a win for all current users. These things will also convert even more non-users over to the service. They’re not changing what’s working, they’re improving upon what’s working.

And Instagram’s timing is good. While Google quickly killed off its mobile photo-sharing fledglings, others, like Facebook, are widely expected to get into the game soon. In fact, we’ve seen pictures of their app. Color is also about to pivot to Blue, a new mobile photo sharing app that ties in deeply with Facebook. Other rivals such as Path are said to be working on completely revamped products in the mobile photos space as well. And with the launch of iOS 5 in a few weeks, more developers will be building photo apps with filters than ever before.

One more thing: the Android app? No sorry, not yet. But Instgram did get a pretty new iOS icon.

You can find Instagram in the App Store here.

[image: instagram/thequeenrebel]

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Launch Date:
September 20, 2011

Instagram is a photo sharing application for the iPhone. It allows you to quickly take pictures, apply a filter, and share it on the service or with a number of other services.

The team behind it is also behind Burbn, a location-based service that works with HTML5-compatible web browsers.

Learn more

With Version 2.0, Instagram Focuses On Re-engineering The Camera